Each season the top teams throughout the United States and around the world are invited to attend post-season events. Here are some of the comments from Illinois coaches of teams that had the opportunity to attend various post-season events.
The entire Senior Solutions Season was an amazing experience for the Century Strikers Team, Coaches & Families. Wrapping up the season by attending the FLL World Festival In St. Louis, was more then we could have hoped for when the season started in September.
The “Strikers” had two call back interviews, one for Robot design and one for Project Research. For Project Research, the team brought home the 3rd Place Award.
But bringing home an award was just the icing on the cake of the World Festival. The four days that the team spent in St. Louis ended up being about much more than the competition and awards. The team was able to meet and spend time with 80 of the best and brightest teams from around the world.
Being able to spend time with other teams was an unbelievable way to meet and learn, not only about the other teams project solutions and robots, but also to learn first hand about the lives of kids from the different states and countries that were represented. And with the shared interest in FLL, that gave the boys an instant conversation starter.
At one point during the practice sessions, we misplaced our alignment jig. While asking other teams if anyone had seen it on the practice tables, without giving it a 2nd thought, every team offered up parts for us to rebuild our jig if we couldn’t find it. Luckily, we found our jig and didn’t need to take any of these offers up. But for the rest of that day, teams were coming to our pit asking if we had found our jig or if we still needed parts. And at no point during this did I ever feel like teams were just doing this because they thought Judges might be watching. They all just wanted to give our team the best opportunity to show what our team had accomplished.
The FLL World Festival was an amazing experience for the member of the team, coaches, family members and supporters that made the trip down to St. Louis. The energy and enthusiasm coming from all the teams, coaches, judges and countless volunteers was something that I’ve never experienced before. The energy throughout the entire event proved to me that this was truly a celebration of what all of these teams achieved all season, and not a competition.
For me, one of the highlights of the season happened back at the State Tournament. We were one of the teams lucky enough to receive a Call Back Interview for the Technical Judging. For this call back interview, only two coaches are allowed in the room and it’s done with all of the Technical Judges at the State Tournament - about 25 Judges. For a group of 6th, 7th and 8th grade boys, this could have been a fairly intimidating experience.
While the Judges were all extremely friendly, they were questioning the decisions the team had made in the design, construction and programming of their robot. I’m not sure that I’d be able to handle the pressure of that situation. But this group of boys, many who could not even look me in the eye months earlier, let alone speak in a complete sentence, answered all the Judges questions clearly and were able to justify the design decisions they had made. It was as this point, I knew that this season was a success, regardless of what awards the team received.
Since our return from the World Festival, I’ve had a couple of chances to talk to the team members and their parents, and many of the kids are already coming up with ideas for next years project and robot. They’ve already given me a list of parts that they want me to order to build a robot that they think will be able Natures Fury.
Laurie Haas, coach of The Moovers, on their experience at FIRST® LEGO® League World Invitational Open 2012 – “Robots in Paradise” Central Florida:
“We are happy to report that is was an amazing experience for the team . . . and the girls brought home the 1st place trophy in Teamwork!!!
60+ teams came together from all over the U.S. and the world (France, Great Britain, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Canada, just to name a few) to compete. The teams were the top achievers in their states and countries and ranged in ages from 9-16 (Europe's age bracket for FLL Robotics is up to 16, whereas the U.S. is 9-14) so needless to say, the girls were competing in a very tough arena.
There are 4 main categories in the competition . . . Missions, Technical, Project & Teamwork . . . and an overall Champion's Award. It is a huge accomplishment for the girls to take 1st place in a main category . . . we are sooooo proud of them!!! In the scope of life, learning how to cooperatively learn and work with others is a skill they will use forever!”
Gigi Carlson, coach of the Corn Stalkers, on their experience at FLL Open European Championship in Mannheim, Germany:
At the European Open in Germany, the research judge for the Corn Stalkers from Woodstock, Illinois turned out to be from South Africa which has the corn fungus the Corn Stalkers pinpointed a solution for in their Project. He gave them his contact information and said he would like to consider their solution. The Corn Stalkers believe this was a defining moment (the reason they were given a second chance) for their purposeful trip to the OEC!
“What are the chances that the judge from South Africa would be in our project research room? You could see light bulbs going off above their heads when all connections were revealed! They didn't have much time to process it because we were off to teamwork (we had a judge's review the next day for that) and to tech design. But when we went to afternoon snack and sat with India (how cool), I pulled out the email address the judge had given us and held it up and asked what did they think about it. Several chimed in they thought it was the reason they were supposed to come. Since we have returned, we have emailed this judge in South Africa just this week. We are hoping to hear back from him soon. What an opportunity to possibly share their research globally and maybe make a small difference to improve one season of corn harvest to feed a community. We are hopeful!
Also - there was a team from Israel who lost their robot, lap top, and costumes for project through a mishap on the afternoon before the tournament. There was great sadness at this revelation by the FLL teams at the Opening night. Within 5 stunned silenced seconds, a female from another team shouted. "We have a mini lap top you can borrow!" Our team followed with, "We brought an extra robot clone and you can use it!" Then the whole room of countries was throwing shout -outs of what they could give to have these children compete with the robot. It was the first of many goose bumpy moments. If only the world could work without borders or politics like these students' brilliant minds of our future innocently did with kindness. That was uplifting. Because the children had been crying for two days, the coach believed it would stress them out even more to try and take apart our robot (with parts from other countries), rebuild it and try to reprogram it. Eventually later that night, they decided not to take our robot but to try and just have fun with the rest of the categories. Now that is true FLL focus in action!! We found out a few days later at the competition (they were positioned directly across from us) that they only had one more robot back in Israel for their 16 students. So on the last day, after all of the communal (USA and other countries) dancing and singing subsided- we decided that we needed to do what Americans do when someone is in need.Preceded by, "It is our custom..." we gave their team an NXT brick, rechargeable battery and a charger so their program could continue back home. The children and coaches hugged and teared and waved good-bye.
Thanks for giving the Corn Stalkers the opportunity to be a part of all of that. As a coach and historian for the trip, it was an honor to witness and be involved in the events that unfolded. We were proud to walk in behind the USA flag with our other Illinois teams and the teams from CA and IN. The Moovers won the Inspiration award!! We stood and cheered at that announcement. Congrats to them!!!
Gloria Fountain, coach of the Newton Busters, on their experience at FLL Open European Championship in Mannheim, Germany:
“The experience was simply amazing and I am really grateful for all that FLL has brought for our team of kids and parents. For our team members, this experience to us was equivalent to going to the Junior Olympics or playing at Carnegie Hall.
Before our trip began, the Vice Consul of the American Consulate General in Frankfurt sent all the US teams a welcome email, followed up with a friendly welcome at the Mannheim event. The many dignitaries that came for all different countries set a high bar of honor. The Moovers, Cornstalkers, and Newton Busters also had email conversations and a conference call to share information before the trip; that was a big plus for trying to figure out how to carry everything overseas and other things.
Our team was not only impressed with the unique solutions presented by each of the 67 teams, representing 35 countries, but with the many demonstrations of culture represented in the booth decorations, Welcome Night skits and performances, and conversations that led to sharing of culture. To have 35 countries to blend with over the three days with a common goal of FLL was an experience that will never be forgotten.
The Newton Busters only had half of the team represented so we were really happy with callbacks in research and technical, but did not materialize trophies. We were nevertheless very honored to be there and knew our team members learned much in the ways of performing, speaking, teamwork, adapting, and sharing without the full team, our biggest obstacle yet. Our team continued to Paris and London after the event to extend the cultural smorgasbord experience; our kids came back to the US with a new perspective on what culture and history means to them.”
Kyle Blais, coach of the T.A.T.D.A.L.F., on their experience at FIRST® LEGO® League Open – North America 2012 LEGOLAND® California:
“Attending the tournament in California was a great experience for team T.A.T.D.Y.A.L.F -- many of the students had never been so far from home before. My students really like the fact that they had the chance to interact not only with other teams and people who are already passionate about FIRST LEGO League, but they were also able share with people who just happened to be at the LEGOLAND park that day and didn't know about FIRST LEGO League. It was great seeing strangers start talking to them while they stood in lines for rides and seeing the students tell them all about the different things they've done and learned this year! The tournament was a great way for my team to end the Food Factor season and I know it will leave them excited to work even harder next year.”
Jim Erbs, coach of the Toyminators, on their experience at FIRST® LEGO® League Open – North America 2012 LEGOLAND® California:
The 64 teams in attendance were judged in the usual four categories -- research, technical, core values and the results of running their robots. The Toyminators were called back in each of the three judged categories, and won "Best Research Presentation." The team managed to also fit in a variety of fun activities while there, including visits to LEGOLAND, the LEGOLAND water park, and Disneyland. It was a fabulous way for the team to wrap up the year -- and leave everyone looking forward to next year!”